By Stephanie Wei
Special to The Toronto Sun
Vikki Crane never imagined that her career would take her all over the world, working with athletes at competitions from Argentina to Australia. A registered massage therapist and certified sports massage therapist, Crane has been a part of the medical team travelling with Canadian athletes competing at international competitions such as the Paralympics and Special Olympics.
"It was an incredible experience," recalls Crane, of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England. "Walking into a stadium with hundreds of spectators, with the queen in attendance, with tens of
thousands of screaming people is just mind blowing. To be a part of that and to get to feel what the athletes feel is just indescribable."
Crane was planning on becoming a physiotherapist when she decided to explore other types of therapy. Unhappy with the theoretical education she was receiving, Crane wanted something more hands-on. Someone suggested she consider massage therapy, and Crane discovered a career she now loves.
Massage therapy is soft tissue manipulation and treatment; it can be used to relax the muscles, treat soft tissue conditions or increase range of motion. Massage can help speed healing by increasing blood flow and oxygen to injured areas, and can help decrease scar tissue formation.
"With massage therapy you really get to be hands on with the client. You're physically getting down to the root of the problem. These days, clients are so used to getting drugs and being hooked up to machines; we've really gotten away from touch therapy and hands-on healing."
Crane studied at the Sutherland-Chan School, where she fast-tracked through an intensive two-year program in 18 months by studying straight through the summer. She says the school prepared her well through rigorous and challenging course work and a structured outreach program, which allowed her to get practical experience in a variety of settings.
While a Sutherland-Chan student, Crane worked at the Lyndhurst Hospital on spinal cord injury cases and at Women's College Hospital on high-risk pregnancy patients. "Sutherland-Chan gives you an excellent education. The instructors really push you to strive, and you build an awesome network of contacts."
Massage therapist Vicki Crane has worked at the Paralympics and Commonwealth Games.
Crane was also fortunate to be mentored by an instructor, who helped her find work as a new graduate, and steered her towards volunteer opportunities in sports massage.
Since graduating, Crane has been able to branch out beyond just massage therapy. She has also taught several courses at Sutherland-Chan and consulted on motor vehicle accident cases at Designated Assessment Centres.
She has been working as a massage therapist with Springdale Physiotherapy in Brampton since 1996, but her passion is for sports massage, and the opportunities it has given her to travel the world and meet new people.
Crane began working with national-level athletes by volunteering with a local swimclub in Brampton. From there, she got involved with the Canadian National Disabled Swim Team.
Her exposure to competitive athletes, both with and without disabilities, gave her enough experience to volunteer as a member of the medical mission staff for the 1997 Special Olympics in Collingwood, Ont., the 2000 Canadian Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England.
She also volunteered with the national disabled swim team at competitions in the United States and Argentina.
She hopes to travel to Athens in 2004 with the Canadian athletes competing in either the Olympics or the Paralympics.
When working with the athletes, Crane is involved in pre-competition and post-competition massage and taking care of minor injuries.
With major competitions, the events can be spread over several days, and athletes can compete two to three times per day.
"It's important to get the blood flow going and to aid the athletes in their warm-ups. You have to work out any last-minute strains and help them flush out waste products from their tissues."
Her most memorable experience as a massage therapist? Crane glows with pride at the memory of the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, where the 24 Canadian swimmers broke 24 Paralympic world records and brought home 48 of Canada's 96 total medals.
"It was such a blast! It was so much fun. After being with the athletes for a short amount of time, you forget about their disabilities. Their athletic ability is their first priority for them -- their disabilities are just not a focus."
Crane is thankful her career has given her so many opportunities to do different things.
"It's never boring. One day you can be working with competitive athletes, the next day you're working with clients with skin grafts.
"The education never stops. I'm continuing to build on my foundation in terms of skills and knowledge base. I still have so many avenues I want to try."
(Write Toronto-based freelancer Stephanie Wei at (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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